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#Future50NW: The 21st Century City and a Livable Downtown for All

The following is a guest post by Jon Scholes, President and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.

Rapid economic growth. Booming construction. An influx of people from all over the world. Those are three ways to describe Seattle and the Greater Puget Sound region today. There’s no getting around it, nor should we want to. A growing, bustling downtown means a stronger Seattle and a stronger Seattle is good for all.

When Laird Norton Wealth Management, both a long-time Downtown Seattle Association member and a long-time Pacific Northwest company, celebrated its 50th anniversary this year by asking what ideas, institutions and individuals would shape the next 50 years of our region, we knew we had to be part of this conversation.

Why? Because so many of the issues facing our region are playing out in downtown right now, and getting it right here will help everyone get it right across the greater Puget Sound area.

In our view, embracing Seattle as a “21st Century City” is the single most important idea that will shape the Pacific Northwest in the next half century. This means:

  • Strengthening a connected regional transportation network
  • Expanding the breadth of welcoming urban public spaces
  • Encouraging walkability and robust housing development that makes room and provides essential services for people and families from all walks of life
  • Embracing technology and innovation to enhance how people move around, share resources and experience an urban place
  • Designing first for people and at a human scale, creating greater proximity to rich experiences

These vital ingredients that will make Seattle a “21st Century City” are already elements that guide all of DSA’s policy and programming priorities.

This doesn’t mean that everyone coming to our region will choose to live in the downtown core, nor that businesses expanding in our region should neglect the other communities that make the Puget Sound such a special place. Far from it. A “21st Century City” and a strengthened Puget Sound go hand in hand. As downtown Seattle demonstrates how to embrace opportunities and challenges brought about by rapid urban investment, it can be a model to inspire walkable, dense, vibrant and inviting communities throughout the region.

Development around future light rail stations – development that improves accessibility and mobility throughout the region – will continue to expand how we view the urban experience. As Seattle continues to grow, both the neighborhoods surrounding downtown and the municipalities just outside the city’s boundaries will grow along with it and grow in a way that is sustainable, walkable and connected.

In the next 50 years and beyond, downtown is, and will continue to be, central to Greater Seattle’s role as one of the most dynamic destinations in the world.  That’s why it’s important we get downtown right, now.

If the “21st Century City” will shape the Pacific Northwest’s next 50 years, we can assure you that DSA will be one of the institutions driving it. Now, it takes individuals with the courage, like those at Laird Norton Wealth Management, to continue asking what it is we want our region to be so we can design our future at a human scale, for people first, and to strengthen the rich experiences we all want and deserve.

Jon Scholes is president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.

 

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